A Whangārei paracyclist has his sights set on Paralympic glory at the 2020 Tokyo Games, despite only taking up the sport three years ago.

Nau Puriri had a stroke at age 5, was diagnosed with epilepsy at 8 and at 12 had brain surgery to control his seizures.

Because of the stroke he has limited function in his right arm and leg. However, this hasn't stopped him participating in sport.

The 37-year-old rode horses on a stud farm after leaving school and did boxing to keep fit before he started cycling in 2015.

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About a year later Puriri was selected for Sport New Zealand's Pathway to Podium talent development programme, which gives him access to strength and conditioning trainers, nutritionists and psychologists to help him prepare for the mental demands of high performance sport.

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Puriri is coached by fellow Northlander Kerry Reyburn who he met through the local Marsden Wheelers cycling club.

Reyburn told the Herald on Sunday he had initially considered himself more of a support person, but Puriri began calling him coach after they started working together on the track to improve Puriri's stability on his bike.

The pair have since become close friends.

Reyburn now travels with Puriri to Paralympics New Zealand track camps and to the nearest velodrome in Cambridge as often as possible.

This week they were in Invercargill for the Track Elite Nationals. During training Puriri shaved an extra second off his time in the Kilo TT event.

He is now six seconds away from qualifying for the Track World Championships.

Paralympics hopeful Nau Puriri at the Elite Nationals event in Invercargill. Photo / Supplied by Kerry Reyburn
Paralympics hopeful Nau Puriri at the Elite Nationals event in Invercargill. Photo / Supplied by Kerry Reyburn

If Puriri can get his time down in the next year or so, Reyburn says the athlete has a good chance of making it to the Paralympics.

Puriri told the Herald on Sunday while competing in the Tokyo Games was his main goal, he'd keep pursuing a career in paracycling if he failed to qualify.

"It's a journey. If I don't make it to this Paralympics then I'll probably look at the next one."

Read more: Paralympics: Whangarei's Kerry Reyburn set for bright coaching future

Puriri currently uses a modified bike, but to get to the Paralympics he'll need a more aerodynamic bike that could cost between $7000 and $8000, Reyburn said.

"We really need a bike with modified gears because he's only got one hand he can actually use for braking.

"With his legs, they're slightly different lengths so at the moment we've got an issue where we need to get him a new crank. Where the pedal fixes to, one side needs to be shorter than the other."

Reyburn and Puriri are fundraising for the equipment. They don't get any sponsorship money to pay for it and also fund the camps and trips to the velodrome themselves.

The recent trip to Invercargill cost them $1500 each for flights and accommodation.

Puriri trains full time, working on indoor training bike six days a week and doing stretches. He also has two sessions a week with a personal trainer doing strength and conditioning. He doesn't get a salary as part of his Sport New Zealand programme but has support from his family.

Reyburn works four days a week as a technician at Whangārei architecture firm. Last year he was awarded a coaching scholarship from Paralympics New Zealand, but this only covers fees for coaching courses.

Both men also help out at Parafed Northland and Halberg Trust children's events in their spare time and when Puriri isn't training he's on call as an outside support member of the local volunteer fire crew.

Paralympics New Zealand high performance athlete manager Melissa Wilson said the next step in Puriri's Paracycling career would be for him to become a carded athlete.

"This is possible once particular performance outcomes are achieved. At this stage Para athletes may also be eligible for a performance enhancement grant."

To donate to Puriri's fundraising campaign click here.